Ton Scherpenzeel -
Virgin Grounds

(CD 2023, 66:40, Oob Records)

The tracks:
  1- Departure(4:34)
  2- Virgin Grounds(3:00)
  3- Conquer The Arctic(4:04)
  4- White World(5:26)
  5- Open Skies(7:50)
  6- Snowscape(3:27)
  7- Midnight Sun(8:38)
  8- Polar Circle(2:55)
  9- Crystal Waves(1:42)
10- Frozen Air(6:05)
11- Eternal Snow(5:04)
12- Northern Light(8:40)
13- Arrival(5:15)

Website      samples      facebook      OOB Records

Strangely enough I was not aware of the fact that Dutch keyboard player and composer Ton Scherpenzeel, best known for his work with Kayak and Camel, had released in 1991, under his alias Orion the album Virgin Grounds. The album flew a bit under the radar as Ton said himself. Now thanks to Kathy Keller and OOB Records the album got a second chance, 32 years later after its first release. This time around it was released as another Scherpenzeel solo album. However only a limited number of copies will be available.

At the time Scherpenzeel originally wrote the music for a TV series called Conquer The Arctic. Teams from different countries competed against each other in snowy and frozen Norway above the Arctic Circle. People skied, abseiled, climbed mountains, skated and cleared snow with great pleasure. Now for this improved reissue several songs have been rearranged and two new songs have been added to the original album, Departure and Arrival.

Therefore this keyboard orientated instrumental album now contains thirteen songs. Songs on which only the Dutch keyboard maestro can be heard, and on which he did everything himself. Next to the playing he also wrote, arranged and produced everything himself. Except for the co-production of the original 11 tracks which he did with the late Bert Ruiter (Focus and Earth And Fire).

When you hear the 13 tracks you realise that the music can hardly be compared to the bands he made a name with. It's a totally different approach of composing music. The music was probably created through improvisation and served the sole purpose of providing images with music. Resulting in a kind of soundtrack that not inspires you to get on the dance floor to jump around. This album needs a different approach to listen to. You put you headphone on and might watch frozen landscapes on YouTube. This way you probably get more in the mood to enjoy this interesting sounding music related to electronic music, related to New Age or other Zen kind of music. Sure there is enough to enjoy for the lovers of progressive rock. Most of all the two added tracks. The opening and closing songs, both composed especially for the reissue. Therefore Departure and Arrival will be enjoyed by them a lot. The spirit of Kayak certainly goes around on those tunes. But also the title track of the TV series, Conquer the Arctic, is also an excellent song with a heroic theme and lots of speed and tension. Also a track such as Snowscape has a real song structure. The strong melody referring to the late Vangelis in many ways. As heard on other tunes as well. I guess he was certainly an inspiration for Scherpenzeel throughout the years.

All in all Virgin Grounds is without any doubt a very interesting sounding album. The perfect soundtrack for a film or documentary set at the North or South Pole. Music wise interesting for people who love the music of Vangelis (or other related artists) or are into new age kind of music. As said before, this release is still rather interesting for anybody who enjoys listening to progressive rock in general. Most of all if you are a fan of Ton Scherpenzeel and his solo stuff you can't miss this release! I loved it all the way! So thanks to OOB Records to release Virgin Grounds again otherwise I never would have know the album existed!

*** Henri Strik (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)

Where to buy?

All Rights Reserved Background Magazine 2024